Complete Keezer Build
Bottling is probably the worst thing about homebrew so why not make life easier and build a keezer! A keezer is essentially a kegerator but it uses a chest freezer rather than a refrigerator to provide your cooling. A freezers only real flaw is that you can’t safely drill into it without risking hitting a coil. That is why we build a collar out of wood so we have a place to put holes and mount everything. A freezer will generally take up more room but will also let you have more kegs.
My Part List:
- Insignia – 10.2 Cu. Ft. Chest Freezer – White
- Two 6 x 2 x 8 feet Pine or Other construction grade lumber
- Two 8 x 1 x 6 feet hardwood boards (I went with oak.)
- Four corner braces
- Wood screws #10 x 1 inch
- Twelve bolts and nuts (Mine were 2 3/4 bolts but yours may need to be shorter or longer depending on your wood.)
- Rustoleum black epoxy appliance paint
- Minwax red mahogany stain
- Minwax wipe on poly
- Four AIH Old Ale 5 gallon corny kegs (Review)
- RV or window foam tape
- Morebeer 6 Way Gas Manifold (Review)
- Inkbird ITC-308 Dual Stage Digital Temperature Controller (Review)
- Gas line tubing
- Beer line tubing
- Shanks & liquid barb
- Four Intertap flow control faucets (Review)
- Hose clamps
- Zip ties
- Gas Quick Disconnect & barbs
- Liquid Quick Disconnect & barbs
- Tap Handles
- CO2 Tank 15# or 20# (See which one is easier to get locally)
- 1 inch hole saw
- Tape measure
- Paintbrush or rags
- Faucet wrench
The freezer is your first big-ticket item in a keezer build. You can find really cheap freezers on craigslist but I would just bite the bullet and buy new or scratch n’ dent model. You really don’t want to put all the effort into a keezer and have the compressor crap out on you. Check stores for scratch and dent sales or check a local outlet store to save money. In the long run a newer freezer will save on your power bill anyway.
Sizing is the first thing you need to consider. The cubic foot rating will give you a general idea of what you will be able to fit inside. A freezer around 7 cubic feet will typically hold four 5 gallon ball lock Cornelius kegs. A 10 cubic feet freezer will typically hold six 5 gallon ball lock Cornelius kegs. I say typically because each freezer has a slightly different floor plan depending on the compressor hump.
A set of cardboard cutouts in the size of your kegs are the best way to determine how many kegs you can fit. Remember to leave a slight air gap as your beer will freeze if your kegs are touching the walls of the freezer. Another consideration when sizing is if you want to have your CO2 tank within the freezer. A 5 pound CO2 tank will easily fit on most compressor humps but you will have to take up valuable floor space if you want a 15 or 20 pound tank.
Removing The Lid:
- Remove cover plates from hinges if they have them.
- Lift lid to relieve pressure from the hinges. Be careful on the next step as the hinges have springs and pins that can shoot off. Skip this step if you are feeling brave or have no help to hold the lid.
- Have a helper hold the lid while removing it.
- Use a screwdriver or ratchet depending on your model to remove each hinge from the back wall of the freezer one at a time. Your model might require full removal from the lid and freezer wall but try to leave the hinges attached to the lid.
- Place the lid somewhere safe and remove gasket if needed for painting. Most models have a removal gasket but some don’t. If your freezer has a light be aware there will probably be a cord connected to the lid.
Now onto the cosmetics of your keezer or should I say lack thereof. White or camo is really what 99% of all chest freezers seem to come in for the good sizes. I really don’t like white appliances so I opted for black. You’ll want to go with an epoxy based appliance paint. Rustoleum makes a glossy black, stainless steel and cream if that fits your style. Make sure to do a light sanding of the surface and a good wipe down with water. The paint comes in both roll on and spray paint but I would suggest roll on. Remember to tape up hinges, controls and anything else you don’t want painted. Goo Gone is great for removing any stickers or labels that you don’t want.
I’ll get some grief for it but I would suggest avoiding wood cladding on your keezer. Modern freezers vent heat out through both the vents and the coils. I looked at several manufacturer’s websites and all want several inches of clearance between the freezer and other objects on all sides. Go for it if want but remember that anything other than paint will put extra strain on your compressor.
I went with a two layer wood collar similar to the design from homebrewacademy. The inner collar is made with 2×6 pine and the outer collar is 1×8 oak. You’ll need a few bolts to secure the inner collar to the outer as well as the corner brackets for the inner collar. This design gives plenty of insulation even without foam.
Making The Collar:
- Measure at least 10 times or at least twice from edge to edge of the freezer for your inner collar. You want the pine to form a perfect box without overlapping the edge of the freezer.
- Measure for your oak or other outer collar wood. You want to go from edge to edge of the freezer but include the bit on the ends for encasing the pine. Don’t worry about the back as it won’t be seen and just adds cost. Adding a back could also cause your lid not to fit properly.
- Purchase your 2×6 pine when you are ready to use it as it tends to warp. Make sure your wood is as straight as possible with just a few small knots. Grab an extra board incase you mess up. Oak, maple and other hardwoods are much more resistant to warping so you can buy this way before building your keezer. Feel free to go with pine on the outer if you want to go the cheap route. Do still build the outer collar as it adds strength.
- Purchase foam tape, 4 corner braces and at least 12 lag bolts with the proper sized nuts.
- Optionally purchase stain and poly if you plan on staining your wood.
- Cut inner collar boards and place on the keezer with lid detached. Attach the boards to each other with the corner brackets. A helper really comes in handy now! Don’t assemble the frame off the freezer as it probably won’t end up square. Keep it on the freezer for doing the outer collar as well.
- Cut outer collar boards for front and sides. Clamp the front board to the inner collar making sure it’s even on both sides. You can either slightly elevate it above the inner collar or leave it flush with the top but you do want it to hang below the sides of the freezer top. Drill your first hole on upper part of either end of the front board so the hole goes just past the bracket in the inner collar an inch or so. Insert a bolt in and tighten a nut inside till snug. This will keep your boards together for the rest of drilling. Drill the hole for the bolt below the one you just tightened. Repeat for the other side.
- Repeat step 7 for the sides.
- Find the center of your front collar board for both lengthwise and height wise and tape across with masking tape. Evenly mark your taps on the tape starting from the center. Drill slowly through each tap mark till all holes are drilled.
- Remove collar and flip it over. Place foam RV or window tape around the whole perimeter of the inner collar. You can use silicon caulk but I like the ability to remove my collar if needed. The collar will be perfectly secure without caulking it down.
- Put the collar back on the freezer and line up as well as possible. Place the lid on top and line up in the center. Mark your hinge screw locations and attach with wood screws. Everything should fit perfectly.
The skeleton or frame of the keezer is now fully complete. Now it’s time to attach all the shiny bells and whistles. Place a few empty kegs into the freezer along with your CO2 tank (if you want it inside) so you know exactly where to mount things. Don’t guesstimate here or you could end up having to remount things and will waste hose. A quick cleaning of all your quick disconnects and barbs won’t hurt either.
Cleaning & Prepping Your Connectors:
- Dip all quick connects, barbs, faucets and shanks in a standard Star San mixture. Most come pretty clean but this way everything is free of dust, dirt and oils.
- Pat dry and let everything air dry.
- Wrap some Teflon tape around each quick connects in a clockwise direction and screw on their appropriate barb. If you happened to mix them up then remember that the big ones are for air and small ones are beer line. Finger tight was fine for mine but we will check for leaks later.
Attaching Your Gas Lines:
- Place kegs and CO2 tank in the freezer in the exact spots you plan on having them.
- Test fit your gas manifold in a spot where the gas lines will have enough clearance and towards one side or the other so you will have room for your air line holes and any extra hardware you want. Use a marker or punch to mark the mounting holes.
- Drill your holes where you marked and mount the manifold with wood screws.
- Skip this step if you are putting your CO2 tank inside the freezer. Mark a spot on the rear collar at least 4 to 6 inches away from the gas manifold’s inlet valve so you can easily bend the air line without a kink. Drill a 3/4 inch hole through the collar. Your temperature probe will go through the same hole.
- Skip this step if you are placing your CO2 tank outside of the freezer. Drill a 1/4 to 1/2 inch hole (depending on your temperature controller) through rear collar for your temperature probe. Position doesn’t really matter as the probe cords are quite long.
- Find a spot on either side of the collar to mount your temperature controller. Mark the spot and pre-drill it. Attach controller with a small wood screw. Always mount the temperature controller in plain view incase something goes wrong with your freezer! Feed the probe through either hole you made from step 4 or 5. If you are placing your CO2 inside you’ll want to plug the hole with either a foam or caulk. Make sure the probe is either taped to a keg or secured somewhere safe.
- Measure out and cut your gas lines for each keg and the gas manifold’s inlet. Air line length has no effect on flow so only leave enough room to move things a bit. After cutting each line check for the length but DON’T attach anything yet.
- Lay out each line in the order that they go to each barb or mark with masking tape for easy assembly.
- Warm up a Star San mixture or clean water till really warm but not boiling. Place the tip of the air line you are about to put on in the warm liquid. Once it has warmed up press like hell onto the gas barb. Repeat until all air lines are connected to their quick connects.
- Slide on your worm gear clamps on now unless you are using zip ties. Have two on each line or one for each end. I used Breeze part number 679-0601 with a range of 7/32 to 5/8 inch.
- Place the end opposite of your quick disconnects in the warm liquid. Slide onto each barb on the gas manifold. Repeat till all lines are connected.
- Attach your regulator to your CO2 or beer gas tank. Remember to at least use 1 loop of Teflon tape.
- Connect the air line from the gas manifold inlet to your regulator. Secure with a worm gear or zip tie.
- Tighten each worm gear fairly tight without cutting your air lines.
Attaching Your Beer Lines, Shanks & Faucets:
- Place a shank through the collar and finger tighten the faucet on. Use a faucet wrench on the outside and a standard adjustable wrench inside to fully tighten. Don’t over tighten and test to make sure tap lever works normally. You will have to play around with positioning to get the faucets straight.
- Use keg lube on the o-rings for the liquid barbs for each shank. Finger tighten them onto the shanks before finishing with one last snug turn with a wrench.
- Cut each beer line to at least 6 feet long. Each style will pour differently but 6 feet will work for most beers.
- Run warm water through each line for a few minutes to remove any plastic smell and taste.
- Let lines soak in a bucket of a standard Star San mixture for a few minutes.
- Remove, drain and air dry or swing around till mostly dry.
- Warm up a standard Star San mixture or clean water till really warm but not boiling. Place the tip of the beer line you are about to put on in the warm liquid. Once it has warmed up press like hell onto the liquid barb. Repeat until all beer lines are connected to their quick connects.
- Place zip ties on the ends of beer line if you want. I used them on the shank barb but not on the liquid quick connect barb.
- Set your temperature controller according to the instructions. It took my freezer about 5 hours to reach my preferred temperature of 38F.
- Finally screw on your tap handles!
The keezer is essentially done now. Hopefully by now you have something ready to keg. Transfer your beer to your cleaned and sanitized kegs to begin the carbing process.
Prepping Your Kegs:
- If you’re using used kegs then I would advise replacing your poppets if it hasn’t been done already.
- Fill your kegs with very warm water and soak overnight. Most syrup, dust and oils should come out.
- Soak in a TSP mixture overnight if machining oil or any other gunk remains. Wash very well with warm water until all TSP residue is gone.
- Sanitize each keg with Star San. Don’t forget the lids!
- Dump and dry if not kegging for a bit or keep full of Star San till ready to keg.
Kegging For Dummies:
- Sanitize keg with Star San or skip if you left the keg full of it.
- Dump Star San in a bucket or somewhere you can dunk your lid.
- Transfer your beer, cider, wine or mead into the keg via sanitized auto-siphon or spigot with hose.
- Add priming sugar now if you aren’t force carbing. Add any other flavoring such as coffee or juice as per your recipe.
- Dunk lid into Star San and place keg lube around the lid seal. Place on keg and seal her up.
- Place keg somewhere room temperature if natural carbing or place in keezer for force carbing.
- Lube up the rubber seal on your gas line poppet with keg lube. Attach gas line quick connect to the in side of keg. Turn on manifold valve and gas tank. Carbonate according to one of the handy dandy carb charts or programs. My beers and ciders typically are carbed within 4 to 5 days but each style will vary.
- Lube up the rubber seal on your beer line poppet with keg lube. Attach immediately or within a few days when you want to check carb level.
- Fill a spray bottle with either a standard Star San mixture or a dish soap and water mixture.
- Spray every connection including the gas manifold looking for bubbles. Also spray the lid and pressure relief valve to check for leaks. Spray around tank and regulator if you recently hooked it up. If there are no bubbles then you should be fine.
- If bubbles are found tighten zip tie, worm gear or retape with Teflon tape depending on where the leak is. Replace anything that leaks if the quick fixes don’t work.
- Buy a rechargeable gun safe or closet dehumidifier to prevent moisture build up.
- Add a fan to help evenly cool your keezer.
- Add foam board insulation to collar.
- Use cord Velcro strips or other means to cleanly route your liquid lines.
- Install a drip tray to replace your ghetto drip buckets.